05/31/2012 at 05:40 PM EDT
After a glint of good news during an otherwise stunning fall from grace, John Edwards on Thursday took full responsibility for what he called his "sins" even as he maintained he believed he did nothing illegal.
The onetime Democratic presidential candidate also spoke emotionally about his 4-year-old daughter with mistress Rielle Hunter, calling her "my precious Quinn, who I love more than any of you could ever imagine, who I am so close to and so, so grateful for. I'm so grateful for Quinn."
It was Edwards's alleged efforts to use illegal campaign contributions to cover up his affair with Hunter that stood at the center of his federal corruption trial that ended with one not guilty
verdict but a mistrial on five other undecided counts.
After praising the jury as "an exemplar of what jurors are supposed to do," Edwards, 58, told reporters and others outside the courthouse in Greensboro, N.C., that "I want to make sure that everyone hears from me and from my voice."
"While I do not believe that I did anything illegal, or even thought I was doing anything illegal, I did an awful, awful lot that was wrong," he said. "There is no one else responsible for my sins."
He added: "I am responsible. And if I want to find the person who should be held accountable for my sins … it is me and me alone."
Edwards then praised his parents and all of his children, including grown daughter Cate, who sat next to him throughout the trial, and spoke of his future, saying he wants to be a good father and to work with poor children.
"I don't think God's through with me," he said. "I really believe he thinks there are still some good things I can do."
With reporting by SHARON COTLIAR and WENDY GROSSMAN KANTOR